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Amazon’s sneakernet for the cloud

I’m not writing as much about Amazon Web Services as I once did – not because they are less interesting, but because they are so successful and well covered. Still, one thing that did catch my eye recently is the new import/export feature, now in beta. The idea seems contrary at first: deliver or export data from your Amazon internet storage using the latest variant of sneakernet – copy stuff to a drive, and take it physically to the destination.

The thing is, copying data over the Internet is relatively slow and expensive. Once the volume of data gets beyond a certain point, it is cheaper to transport a hard drive. I remember Sun telling me the same thing in relation to its data centers: for large volumes of data, the most cost effective way to shift it is on a truck.

Amazon’s system is not normally on that scale, but it is the same principle: you send them a portable hard drive. There’s even a handy chart explaining how much data you need for this to be worth doing:

Available Internet Connection Theoretical Min. Number of Days to Transfer 1TB at 80% Network Utilization When to Consider AWS Import/Export?
T1 (1.544Mbps) 82 days 100GB or more
10Mbps 13 days 600GB or more
T3 (44.736Mbps) 3 days 2TB or more
100Mbps 1 to 2 days 5TB or more
1000Mbps Less than 1 day 60TB or more

The cost? $80 per storage device, plus $2.49 per data-loading hour.

Many home and small business users have ADSL with a maximum upload speed of 1Mb – slower than anything considered on the chart above. If you have a large database or media collection to put on S3, sneakernet soon makes sense.

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